Thursday, July 29, 2004

My Daily Routine, July 29

Ive settled into a daily routine here, so Ill take you through a typical day.  I wake up about 7am every morning and pop out of bed to turn up the gas heater, turn on the coffeemaker, then climb back under the warm sheets till the coffee is ready.  When it is, I get up and pull the curtains back to look out at the front lawn and river, and I bundle up and drink my coffee.  The last 2 mornings, the bird baths out my window have been frozen solid.  But a cold front just went through and it should be warmer by the weekend.  In fact this week Ive seen clouds for the first time.  No rain though.  While having my coffee and looking at the view, I check email, since I usually have plenty of it first thing in the morning due to time difference between here and the US.  (By the way, right now, SA is 6 hours ahead of Atlanta, 7 hours ahead of Alabama.  We dont do daylight savings time here, so after you guys switch over in October, Georgia will be 7 hours behind, Alabama 8 hours).  I usually eat a bowl of cereal and banana with my coffee and email, and these delicious pure fruit juices that come in boxes that they keep my refrigerator stocked with.  This morning I had orange/peach.  Yum!  Sometimes I surf the web some, to read news from back home,, my condos web site message board,, and  I usually just read the headlines of stories, but its keeping me pretty much in touch with whats happening back home.  Im on a slow dial-up connection here, unfortunately.  High-speed is available, and I will look at getting the business here connected on that when we get back from Botswana.  For now though, its slow going.


I take my laptop downstairs usually about 8am and hook up next to Rosemary.  Here is a picture I took of her at her workplace.


Weve set up my workspace just to the right of her, so Im there to help her with computer things and other projects.  We share printers and the phone.  As you can tell from the photo, our workspace is smack-dab in the middle of their living room, so its never very peaceful, but thats OK.  In the mornings we usually keep CNN on the TV, so we hear world news in the background while we do other things.  Its usually just Larry King interviewing Martha Stewart or something.  This week seems to be griping (yawn) coverage of the Democratic Convention.  Sheesh, sorry Im missing out on that!  Sarah-Pat has a nanny (not sure what they call her actually) who keeps tabs on her all day, and sometimes she makes us turn CNN off for a Barney tape.  Rex has a small corner office just off to the right in this picture, so hes never far away either.  We dont really sit there and work for too long ever, as we go over to the Pub, or out to the accounting shed (office) or out to look at the lawn (thats being re-sod next week) or off to some other crisis.  Midmorning, Rosemary will usually heat us up a chocolate muffin and make tea.  She knows well the importance of my regular feedings!  Sometimes at noon we will order lunch from the restaurant, but more often, I go upstairs to my room and have a couple of peanut butter sandwiches (and more yummy juice!).  The afternoons, I usually give computer lessons to a couple of the staff members, teaching them to do things on the computer to take pressure off of Rosemary, and to do while shes out of town, of course.  John and Storm get home from school about 4pm usually, and we help Storm with her homework, or I go out and kick the rugby ball with John, and take Guinness for a play session down by the river.  We re also still working through that time usually.  We usually order dinner from the restaurant and watch some TV all of us together.  They really dont watch much TV here (at least not as much as we Americans do), but theres usually one show each night the kids love to watch.  Smallville, Everwood, Friends, The Simpsons, or a rugby match usually.  Some nights Ill go sit in the Pub and eat dinner and read the paper there, visit with the staff some.  I think they just like to hear me talk, doesnt matter what I say.  Most of the staff speak Afrikaans as their first language, and amongst themselves, but their English is very good, though heavily accented.  I have to listen very carefully and often get them to repeat themselves.  I try to learn a word of Afrikaans here and there.  Im not much of a bar person anyway, and everyone here smokes, it seems.  But the fireplaces in the Pub are so warm and cozy, I do enjoy them.  I think though, I will enjoy the atmosphere there more when it gets warm and all the doors and windows are left wide open at all times.  I usually am in bed asleep by 10pm or so.  I have a TV upstairs in my room but hardly ever even turn it on.  Tonight Im watching a mens tennis match live from the US, Safin-Kiefer (its on one of their sports channels, and no commercials!), but I think this is the most Ive had my TV on at all.


I should explain that John and Storm go to schools in Johannesburg, about a 45 minute drive from here.  Its close to an hour door to door for them from here to school.  Rosemary and Rex take them and pick them up every day.  Usually one of them takes them in the morning and the other picks them up in the afternoon.  About 5 years ago, they rented a house in Johannesburg and tried out living there and having a short commute for school, then coming to Stonehaven on weekends.  They all decided they much preferred living at Stonehaven, and together, they made the decision to go ahead and live here and do the long commute to school.  The quality of life is so much better here.  They do keep a small flat in Joburg that is walking distance from John and Storms school, so some days, Rex stays there and works all day from the flat.  And if one of them gets out of school early, or the other has a sport after school or something, the other can walk to the flat and let themselves in.  The system works well for all of them because they made up their minds to make it work.


Ive been trying to go for a run every other day or so, but its usually like every 3rd day.  I try to go mid-afternoon when its warmest, as I dont like cold weather running.  Rex is a big runner too, but has had a very bad cold since Ive been here, so not up to running.  My first run that I went for, he drew me out a map and gave me directions for a nice 30 minute run, but I missed a turn and got off course.  I always knew where I was though.  And I have to concentrate to remember to run on the right side of the road (facing traffic), which is of course opposite of how I have to concentrate when I drive (which I havent been back doing yet since my first time).  We are at 5,000 feet altitude here, so my breathing isnt great when I run, but hopefully will get better.  I know there are tennis courts about 2 miles from here, and I hope to get out and hit some when Spring breaks.  That will probably be after Botswana though.  I miss playing tennis a lot, but it might be great for certain body parts (wrist, elbow, shoulders, etc.) that I am taking some extended time off.


One of the ladies goes and cleans my room in the afternoon.  (I know this will come as a huge shock to some of my friends, but Im not very neat and tidy)  They always keep me guessing where theyve put things.  The other day I couldnt find my running shoes anywhere. I looked in cupboards, under furniture, drawers, everywhere.  Finally I went downstairs and asked Rosemary for ideas.  She had to ask around too, and it turns out they had taken them out to be washed.  Well, I guess they were dirty, but theyre RUNNING SHOES.  Anyway, I got them back in time, still dirty.  The laundry is an on-going adventure for us all.  They take my dirty clothes away (and sometimes my clean clothes) and I end up with some of Johns shirts or sox, and they all get some of my laundry mixed in with theirs.  They say its a common occurrence anyway, even before I arrived. 


The food here is delicious, probably too delicious!  And being able to just order from the restaurant whenever and whatever I want is going to make me fat and lazy if I dont watch it (not to mention the wine.  The ever-flowing wine!).  They have a lot of beef dishes, so I usually have a steak or hamburger.  Steak with a fried egg on top of it is pretty good.  My arteries are probably choking, so once again, I gotta keep running!  Probably my favorite item on the menu is the Curry of the Day.  They do a beef, or lamb or chicken curry every day and it is some kinda good.  This weekend will be the Afrikaans Potjie (poy-key) Festival, --- potjie seems to be a stew cooked slow and steady with everything in the kitchen thrown in it.  The restaurant serves a potjie most days, and its pretty darned good too.  At Shagpad last weekend, one of the dishes served was a Biltong pasta.  Biltong is like beef jerky, but a lot better, and a very popular local item.  But with their heavy accents, they were pronouncing it (and I was hearing it as) Bull Tongue.  So yes, I thought I was eating tongue of bull.  And in pasta, no less.  But hey, they were all excited about it, so I figured I could at least give it a try.  When we all finally figured out that what I thought they were saying wasnt what they were saying, they all had a good laugh.  And I felt much better about eating the stuff!  Ive also had some chicken here, but mostly beef.  No fish yet either.  The vegetables are pretty good, especially one called butternut that is kind of like squash.


They do love hearing me talk here, pretty much the way we love hearing South Africans talk back home.  Of course, with movies and media, they hear American accents all the time.  I find myself slipping in a SA term or pronunciation sometimes, but they really like it when I pour on Southern.  So I just let go with a big ole this or Im fixin to do something, and they just hang on every word.  During computer class today one of the staff members was on the phone with her daughter and I was talking in the background.  She said her daughter wants to know Whos the cowboy?


When I really try to impersonate a South African accent, then they REALLY laugh at me!


Tomorrow night Rosemary and I are going to a Rotary Club meeting with Rex.  Rex is president of the Rotary here, so very involved.  At tomorrow nights dinner meeting, theyre having 2 exchange students speak.  One is a SA girl who just spent time in Illinois, and the other a German boy who is here as an exchange student.  I remember when Rosemary was an exchange student living with us, she went and spoke to my grandfathers Rotary Club in Brundidge, and was a big hit with them, from what I heard.  So now Im kind of the exchange student and we are going to a Rotary meeting here.  Ah, the circle of life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Recipes ideas? July 27

The staff here wants to spice up the dessert table at the Stonehaven Sunday buffet and they were asking me for ideas.  One thing they have plenty of here is pumpkin, but they have never heard of pumpkin pie.  Does anyone out there reading this have a good recipe for one?  Also sweet potato pie maybe?  They serve sweet potatoes on their main buffet, but they just stew them.  Boring!  I was telling them how we serve them with brown sugar and cinnamon and marshmallows and pecans.  (Pecans are hard to get and expensive here, so we might have to forgo that part)  Anyone have any good recipes for sweet potatoes?  I brought my moms banana pudding recipe with me (which theyve never heard of either, poor lost souls) and am going to spring that on them too.


Email me recipes!  Thanks for your help! 

Monday, July 26, 2004

Shagpad! July 24

Over 20 years ago, when Rosemary and Rex lived in Johannesburg, they got together with a group of their friends and bought a piece of land on the river about 20 minutes south of Stonehaven.  It was a barren piece of land where they put small trailer/campers for themselves, to come down on the weekends for water skiing, adult beverage consumption, and other activities (like shagging!).  The name Shagpad was coined by several in the group who were from the UK.  You know the meaning of the UK slang word Shag (no, its not a dance, and yes, its what you think it is).  Having a weekend place where you brought your girl to shag was the idea.  So it took the name Shagpad.


This is what Shagpad looked like when I visited 20 years ago:


Its changed a bit!  Here are a couple of photos of what it looks like now:


Together, the group built a house with a main gathering room, kitchen, bar, porch, etc., and off to each side, each member built their rooms, a bedroom/bathroom downstairs and bedroom/bathroom upstairs.  Most of the group still live in Joburg, though Rosemary and Rex live down closer to Shagpad now.  Its a unique social group.  20 years ago, it was all young adults;, now the place is overrun by the children.  I guess thats what comes from shagging!  Ha. 


So Saturday night was Shagpads Christmas party.  We had gluvin (sp?) which I thought was wine made from glue, but found out its more like warm Sangria.  Everyone cooked a dish or potjie or dessert or other snack.  And Father Christmas even visited!  I called him Santa, but he is Father Christmas to them.  And yes, he comes from the North Pole, not the South Pole, which would make much more sense here. 


Oh, and they needed someone to dress as Father Christmas to give out presents to young and old alike.  Yeah, guess who.


I sat there trying to look fat and jolly and trying to ho ho ho in a South African accent (but Father Christmas finally gave that up and went to heavy southern US drawl, which they appreciated more, I think) while every child and then every adult sat on my lap to get their present and give Father Christmas a kiss.  Some were shy about that:


Some werent:


Holy cow, I think Father Christmas even got a little tongue there!


Rex cruelly tested out Father Christmas lap strength by bouncing (either that or he was really excited about his present!):


Dinner tables were later moved out of the way so a dance floor could be made.  There was much festive Christmas spirit that carried on into the wee hours of the night.  Fa la la la la.


It was a good chance for me to meet and get to know some of the people who will be traveling to Botswana with us in a couple of weeks.  That trip will be all Shagpad people, and we are calling it the Shagpad Botswana Express.  Should be a wild group!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

SA vs. New Zealand Rugby 24 July

Yesterday, South Africa played the New Zealand All Blacks in rugby.  New Zealand is legendary in rugby and are ranked #1 in the international rankings.  South Africas team has been scandal-plagued in the last year (I keep hearing stories – and yes Ive seen video of it -- of a rugby camp that was like boot camp and the team was striped naked and made to stand in a freezing river for 2 hours, and things like that which are supposed to build team morale or something.)  They have a new coach this year and are an unknown and considered in a re-building stage.  The match was in New Zealand, where the Springboks havent won since 1965, and where the All Blacks havent lost a match at all since 1995. 


Before the match, the players line up on the field for the playing of both national anthems.  (South Africas national anthem is actually sung in 3 languages.  It starts out in one of the black tongues --Zulu, I think -- then Afrikaans, then finishes in English.)  After the anthems are played, the New Zealand team faces their opponents and they do a dance called the Haka (pronounced hock-ah).  Its almost a tribal war dance, and extremely powerful and moving to watch.  I got chills and had never even seen it done before.  It struck me as similar to some of our US college football traditions, that even the opposing team and fans can stand back and watch and appreciate.


When the match started, SA scored a try (rugbys equivalent of a touchdown) within seconds, and held the lead almost the whole match.  It came down to the last minute of play, SA ahead by 3, but NZ on the move, inching closer to scoring, and SA desperately giving all on defense.  The All Blacks finally did score their first try of the day in the last 30 seconds, to beat SA 23-21.  It was a classic rugby match and our hearts were ripped out.  So close.


SA will have to take moral consolation in knowing they played them so close in enemy territory.  The 2 teams play again next month in Johannesburg, unfortunately we will be in Botswana when that happens.


The match was an evening one in NZ, so it was 9:30am here.  The pub was actually pretty packed with rugby fans there to watch!  I had breakfast and coffee in the pub while watching the first half.    Rex and I debated ordering a beer/wine for the second half, but since it was just 11am by then, we decided not to.  Long day of drinking ahead of us.  Last night was the Shagpad Christmas party!  Details and pictures to follow.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Driving on the left, July 22, 04

Ive been here 2 weeks now and figured it was time to get behind the wheel of a car this week.  We knew it needed to happen eventually, to at least get me out for a short drive somewhere, to start breaking me in to driving on the left side of the road.  But before I hit the real road, with traffic and pedestrians, we hit the mountain trails!


Two weeks from now, we are going on what will be (for me anyway), the trip of a lifetime.  We (me, the Andersons, and 11 friends of theirs) are going on safari up into Botswana.  The first week will be spent in the Kalahari Desert.  In contrast, the second week will be spent in the Okavango Swamps.  Some of the nights will be spent in lodges, some will be spent camping, and 3 nights on the Okavango, we will be traveling in small boats, sleeping on the riverbanks.  But the rest of the time we will be driving.  Through sand, mud, water, up hills, mountains, over rocks, in holes, and who knows what else.  Rosemary and Rex and their friends have done trips similar to this, so we are not all total novices like I am.  But some of the group decided to go for Land Rover 4x4 training to learn the correct way to do off-road driving, plus to learn things about these automobiles that you just dont know when all you do is drive them around town.  So we signed up at the Land Rover Experience, and off we went.


It was an excellent half-day course.  We spent about an hour in a classroom, with our instructor, Sean, telling us about things like ABS, ECUs, DEF locks, and all sorts of things I had never even heard of.  Then we went out and looked under the hood of a Land Rover.  We learned about replacing hoses and fluids and where the on-board computer is located (dont want to get that wet!).  Interestingly, the Land Rovers fuse box is almost exactly where the Jeep Wranglers is!  Who knew? (Inside joke that some will get)


Then it was time to hit the training course behind the wheel.  We warned Sean that I hadnt driven on the other side yet, so he was gentle with me.  I drove one LR, with Rosemary as my co-pilot.  Brave girl!  It was even her LR I was driving!  Rex drove another LR right behind us.  So my first time behind the wheel, all I needed to get used to was shifting with my left hand.  Out in the wilderness we were training in, there was no left/right of the road, so that didnt matter.  We spent about the next 2 hours going through obstacles while the courageous (or crazy) Sean stood in front of us like those guys that direct airplanes, giving me signals.  Left! Right! Slow! Fast! Listen to the motor! Forward!  Clutch!  Brake!  Feet off the pedals! Trust the automobile!  Yikes! (that last one was me)  We went down into and through water (about a meter deep), up steep inclines, down steep inclines, through a dark tunnel, over narrow bridges, around scary corners.  The adrenaline rush was actually incredible!  Sean maneuvered us into positions where 1 or 2 wheels of the LR were off the ground, so that we could practice techniques to gain traction to get us out of those positions.


Some picture links below.  Look how calm Rosemary looks there comfy in the front seat, while I had the steering wheel in a death grip, promising to do ANYTHING Sean told me to (and hoping not to run over Rex who was snapping pictures, probably so he could study my technique later, ha!):


Here are some shots of Rexs turn coming up the same hill (Heartbreak Hill):


Some other pictures from our adventurous day:


I think we all have a new respect for the things a Land Rover can do and what punishment it can take!  Look at that wheel torque in some of those pictures!  And we think we are now ready for the Kalahari and Okavango!  Although we are still a little nervous that Sean wont be there to be our guiding beacon through the treacherous terrain. 


And we will even be getting certificates from our class!


Feeling full of confidence, Rosemary and I headed into Johannesburg to pick up the kids from school.  On the drive back, as we got outside of Joburg, Rosemary pulled over and let me take over the wheel.  John and Storm turned a little pale in the back seat, but as usual, they were troopers.  Most of that drive back was on open 4-lane highway, so it was good for me to get a feel for being in the right (left) lane, etc.  Once we got close to Stonehaven, I nearly ran through my first stop sign (concentrating on staying on the left!), but everyone in the car politely caught me in time (STOOOOOOOOOP!).  Well, I didnt miss another stop sign the whole way.  It was mentally exhausting more than anything, and that left handed shifting was awkward (I kept going from 1st to 4th, which really doesnt work too well).  It will take more practice and just doing it, before Ill feel more comfortable, but at least Ive broken through and done it.  And I can go through rivers and rocks with the best of them!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Weekend Activities!

Saturday morning was guys day out for Rex, John and me.  We drove up to Johannesburg where John had a rugby match to play.  It was an intramural day for his school, so we also helped braai (cookout) for the boys to have some food.  We hurried back to Stonehaven in time to see the big rugby match of the day between South Africa and Pacific Islands.  They had brought in 2 big screen TVs to the pub for the day, and the atmosphere was pretty much like Jocks and Jills on an autumn Saturday, except that everyone in the place was for South Africa, of course.  The Springboks won 38-24, so the crowd was happy, and a little drunk, even though it was only 1pm by then (the game was in Australia, so many hours ahead of us).  Im starting to understand the rugby rules more and more, and I even complained that the announcers seemed a little biased towards the Pacific Islanders.  Sheeesh, it was like Lee Corso calling an Auburn game.


There were also 5 kids birthday parties going on at once, so the place was hopping!


After rugby, there were more Provincial games on TV (SA provinces each have teams, and the contrast between International and Provincial play seems to be like college vs. pro in the States). 


Saturday night we had 2 old friends of Rosemary and Rex over for dinner; I had met them 20 years ago.  Over some dinner and some wine and after dinner drinks, we discussed world politics, and mostly solved all the problems of the world.  Unfortunately on Sunday morning, the worlds problems were back.


On Sunday, Stonehaven hosts a very popular Sunday buffet, which brought out a good crowd as well.  I took John and Storm for a run with me.  Ive run a couple of times since Ive been here, and the altitude (we are at 5,000 feet) will take me some time to adjust to.  Its also a challenge to remember to run on the right side, into on-coming traffic.  John and Storm were troopers and did great running with me.  We carried Johns rugby ball and passed it between us.


 I thought that might wear them out some, but the day was just getting started.  We decided to go down to Stonemanor.  Four properties down the river, is Stonemanor, which is an 8 room bed-and-breakfast type cottage (actually 2 cottages).  It is run in conjunction with Stonehaven.  We had a race to get down there, John and I rowing in a small, scary boat that tipped a lot if we werent very very still as we rowed!  Rosemary and Storm took the land route on Storms quad, a 4-wheeling bike kind of, uh, thing.  Well, they beat us down to Stonemanor by about 10 minutes.  Rosemary and I swapped places for the ride back, and I held on for dear life on the back of the quad as Storm drove us on a very bumpy route back home (wearing cool looking motorcycle helmets!).  Ouch.  Sorry, no pictures of our ride.


After a stop at the buffet table for lunch, Rex took us on a ride on the river on the Royal Stonehaven.  This is the largest boat owned by Stonehaven, and is used for functions.  Picture:


A view of Stonehaven as we pulled away:


We cruised up and down the river for about an hour, looking at the beautiful homes, public parks and farmlands (across the river is the Free State Province, and their development laws have been different from the Gauteng Province, on our side, so that much of the other side of the river is still farmlands).  John took control of the boats PA system and acted as our tour guide while Captain Rex drove the boat:


while Rosemary and I sat upstairs for a better view:


Sorry for the face on that one, I think I was giving John instructions on how to work my camera.  Good job, John!


Storm and I decided to try out the on-board Jacuzzi:


John, Rosemary and Sarah-Pat (Im not sure what theyre staring very intently at):


As you can see, the day was pretty warm.  I think it was in the low 60s, but as always here, with the bright sun high above and no clouds, it felt even warmer.  The river is a huge draw for water skiers later in the summer.  Rex is an excellent water skier, so Im sure we will be out there on the river a good bit when summer comes.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Web pages in Afrikaans

I wrote my first Afrikaans web page this week:


It’s to help advertise the upcoming Potjie and Mampoer Festival that Stonehaven is hosting in 2 weeks.  Potjie (pronounced poi-key.  I think) is a traditional Afrikaans food that is cooked in a witch’s cauldron-type bowl for hours.  Mampoer (pronounced like it looks, I think) is a traditional Afrikaans adult beverage.  So this day is a celebration of all things Afrikaans, therefore we wanted the web page advertising it to be in Afrikaans.  There will be a Potjie cooking competition, and bonfires and all those other things listed on the page, which I’m pretty clueless about how to translate, sorry.  I’m sure I’ll post more detail on the Potjie Festival after it happens (July 31).


So that’s one of the things I’ve done this week; added this page to their web site, and started to help Rosemary clean up the Stonehaven web site ( in general.  There were some loading problems on some pages and some cosmetic changes needed, so I’ve been working with her web design company on getting those corrected plus some menu and pricing items that needed updating on the web page.


In the US, we throw around the “dotcom” word a lot, because it’s so easy to say.  I’ve been tripping over my tongue here when discussing web pages, because most South African pages end in “” instead of the “.com” that I’m used to.  They do have a shorthand lingo for it, so I’m trying to fall into the habit of saying “dotkoza” instead of “dotcom”.  (old habits die hard though!)


I’ve also been working on getting them individual email boxes on their domain name, like  We’ll have Stonehaven in the 21st Century before long!


Friday, July 16, 2004

A virtual tour of my room.

By the way, yes, I am working here, thanks to my friends who have inquired about that.  But what fun would pictures of working and stories of installing software be, compared to stories and pictures of wine and song?  I aim to entertain!  However, I will post some “work” information in the future, since you all seem so concerned about that.  I worked so hard for that work permit!  Dammit, I’m using it!


Meanwhile, my living quarters, the “Lee Pad” as they’ve referred to it.  It’s a new addition to Stonehaven, so I give tours often (which means keeping it clean!).  Their original plan was to build a wine cellar, which will serve as a wine cellar but also as a function room for parties, meetings, etc.  They later decided to add my room up on top of the wine cellar.  This is a picture of Stonehaven that might give you an idea of the layout:


The Cottage is where the Anderson family lives.  It all joins together, yet is very separated too, so they do get time away from the business.  Then there’s the Lee Pad on top of the Wine Cellar, and then the Pub and Restaurant.  The pub is very popular and stays full a lot from what I’ve seen.  Friday night the DJ plays music till about 2am, so we all hear the thump-thump of the music from there. 


Here is a picture of Stonehaven from further away.  I was down on the river bank when I took this one.


And a closer-up picture of me at the top of the stairs which lead into my room:


The Wine Cellar isn’t finished yet, they’re still working on it.  I think they have it booked towards the end of this month, so they do have a deadline.


At the foot of the stairs leading up to my room, they put a marker, so as the legends grow, the tourists will be able to know where they are standing:


Going up the stairs, at the top, is a welcoming sign they had put out for me:


Some pictures of the inside of my room (Pardon my messy luggage on the couch.  I was a slob in the Northern Hemisphere; did we really expect anything different in the Southern Hemisphere?):


The view out the window from further back in the room:


When warmer weather comes (they tell me Spring will break in about 3 weeks), I likely will keep those door/windows wide open all the time.  Remember, no A/C here, and no central heat either (using space heaters to keep me warm at night).  I think my Friday and Saturday nights will be even noisier then, with music from the pub.


And standing at the window, this is the view:


Here is that same view the other morning when I woke up (frost on the ground, fog on the river):


And here I am, sitting on my couch, bed in the background, doing my best come-hither look (so far it’s not working):


Rosemary stocked my kitchenette well for me.  As a life-long friend, she knows the importance of my feeding much and often.  I even have jars of peanut butter which I leave open on my counter and the nice lady who cleans my room puts it away each day.  I have my coffee maker up there, and a kettle for tea.  I have most of my meals downstairs with the family, but it’s nice to be able to snack or make a quick sandwich in my room.  And you never know when those midnight cravings for peanut butter will pop up!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Flashback to Day 1

We got some pictures back from my first day’s arrival at Stonehaven, so I thought I’d post them.  Here’s the whole gang gathered around me (yes, they were still singing and dancing and clapping, a beautiful African song):


Then notice the man in front offered me this lovely basket that (gulp) had something living inside it.


Uh oh.  See the confusion on my face.  Am I supposed to take the basket from him?  Am I supposed to stick my hand in there?  What if I offend him by doing the wrong thing?  Barely an hour in the country and I’m going to piss them off.  Yikes!  But I really wasn’t sure what was inside of the basket yet.  What to do?  I just smiled and tried to stall for time, until Rose could tell me what the hell to do!  Turns out it was only a chicken with some baby chicks in the basket, and was a symbolic welcoming gift from them.  Whew!


So all was well and we posed for another picture while they kept singing and poor little Sarah-Pat stood there looking lost in the excitement (she still sometimes looks at me like she’s not sure why I’m here).


It’s good to look back on these pictures now and recognize and know some of the people.  That day it was a sea of faces.  But I’m still learning names and I think I will be for awhile.  For one thing, many are African or Afrikaner names (go figure!), so the pronunciation just does NOT stick in my head the next time I see the person.  And often I have to get Rosemary to spell the names, just so I can visually get what I’m trying to say.  But for now, I just walk around Stonehaven and everyone (I mean everyone!) I pass has a bright smile and a cheery HI LEE! for me and I just say Hello!  Good morning!  Good to see you!  So far I’m getting by with that.

Those little boxes

Sorry for the little boxes that appear throughout this blog!  It’s a software thing that has to do with my using Word to compose my postings.  My only choices are to go back and edit each box after I post (too time-consuming) or go to posting straight text, but then hyperlinks to photo’s wouldn’t work.  So try to ignore the boxes (I think they only go where apostrophes should be) and any other strange characters that might appear.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Wine, dogs and a staff party!

Wine seems to flow like water here.  For one thing, it’s very cheap!  In Stonehaven’s pub, the price of a glass of wine is 7 rand, which is just about $1.17 (10% tipping is customary here).  When you order white wine here, you have to say “dry” or “sweet” (sort of like ordering ice tea in the South… sweet or unsweet … but then, what’s that movie line?  “Ice tea is the table wine of the South”).  I think beer is cheap here too, though not buying it much in the States, I can’t compare that well.  A large glass of Guinness in the pub (500ml) is 9.95 rand, or about $1.67.  I’m pretty sure it’s not that cheap at Jocks and Jill’s 10th Street! 


The wine is delicious to me, but then I’m not really a connoisseur.  (friends, hold the wine-in-a-box jokes, please)  I’ve only tried the whites so far and prefer the dry ones.  They keep telling me I must try the reds, and I will, I will!  So much wine, so little time.  I was asked to ask Rex and Rosemary if they get American / California wines here, and after about a nano-second’s consideration, they muttered a horrified “Noooooooooo”.  They estimate 99% of the sales of wine here are South African wines, with imports making up the other 1%.  About 10 to 15 years ago, it seems anything imported here seemed exotic and desirable.  But a tell-tale sign of the way this country has united in the last 10 years after the fall of apartheid is the way they are now fiercely proud of anything they produce themselves.  It’s refreshing.


The River Pub has such a cozy feel to it.  Rex grew up in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, and his father owned a hotel and pub there, so Stonehaven’s pub is somewhat modeled for that.  There is an outdoor patio with picnic-style tables (Atlanta folks, think Prince of Wales) that will I’m sure be packed in warmer weather (suitable for sitting at mid-day now when it’s warm out).  The inside has a couple of fireplaces and nautical equipment hanging everywhere.  Brick floors, heavy wood tables and those fireplaces roaring make me just want to sit down and order yet another glass of wine (dry, please)!


I should also mention again, the dogs at Stonehaven.  There are 8 in all, and they go anywhere and everywhere.  The house, kitchen, pub, event spaces, my room, the kids’ rooms, the couch where you’re watching TV, a staff meeting … wherever they want to go.  Most of the dogs are smallish ones, pug-type mutt dogs.  Then there is Guinness, a black lab who thinks he is also a small dog, but he’s not.  A picture of Guinness and a buddy waiting for happy hour:


The menu at Stonehaven even has a Doggies Menu with items like Meat Leftovers, Rice, Dog Pellets, and Fresh Well Water (no charge!).  The menu also states: “Stonehaven welcomes all dogs as long as they are not grumpy, bad mannered or anti-social to fellow dogs, humans and resident Stonehaven animals.”  By the way, Guinness is currently on probation for having chewed up a customer’s cell phone last week.


The staff Christmas Party was last night.  Christmas here is during their busy summer season of course, so they have to have it at a more quiet time of the year (now).  As any open-bar staff party I’ve ever been to, this one got a little wild.  I tried to join in like a good staff member, but I couldn’t really keep up.  These pictures pretty much capture the moment:


There was dancing and organized staff performances (a can-can dance by the waitresses, a full-Monty show by the waiters --- pictures available on request ---, some karaoke, and many African dances).  A good time was had by all.  Stonehaven is strangely quiet this morning!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Of Rugby and Golden Grahams


There are about a zillion mynah bird that flock to the trees around Stonehaven every day at sunrise and again at sunset and they chatter loudly.  It sounds like something out of “The Birds”, but is actually very soothing.  Well, at sunset it’s soothing.  I haven’t made my mind up about sunrise yet.


Today was my first rugby match.  We went to John’s school, where it was Gaudy Day.  Don’t ask me to explain that, but it’s a day of celebration for things we have.  John’s is a very old and grand boy’s school in Johannesburg, St. John’s.  (Storm’s school is right next door)  For lunch, we ate in a huge hall with wooden tables and high ceilings, and I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie.


We then went to the rugby match.  John didn’t play, as it was the First Team (i.e. varsity) against the Old Johannies (the alums).  The crowd was very un-rugby-like, since they only politely applauded both teams for most of the match.  I’m pretty sure that’s not done at most rugby matches.  It was a good match for me to get the basic rules of the game down, although John had to sit with his classmates, so I only had Storm and Rosemary to teach me.  They did OK I suppose, but told me the wrong point totals for a score (a try?), and people next to us had to correct us, and there were 2 points that we’re still not sure of how one team got.  An ambulance had to come on the field at one point to fetch a down player, but everyone sat patiently until play could resume.  The First Team beat the Old Boys 44-26.  I can see similarities between rugby and American football, in the scoring and rules, and even in the play development, pitching out the ball for an end-around sweep run, etc.  I’m looking forward to watching a game with John, to get more information on the rules (no offense to Rose and Storm…)


Here are some gratuitous rugby photos if anyone’s inclined to look at them:



Last evening, we had the grand opening of the box of Golden Grahams which I brought to my SA family in my suitcase.  Actually in my tennis bag, carefully packed between 2 rackets with plenty of t-shirts and socks around it to cushion it.  The box made it in perfect shape.  Now Rosemary fell in love with Golden Grahams back in 1976, but they have yet to make their way to SA grocery store shelves.  So whenever she can get her fix fulfilled, she does.  John and Storm have learned to love them on trips they’ve made to the US, and Sarah-Pat had yet to taste this incredible delicacy.  The box had sat looking at them for 24 hours since I arrived, and finally they could take it no longer, so I had them upstairs to my room where we had the opening ceremony.  We lit a candle, placed bowls and milk around, and I just stood back and let them go at it.  It warmed my heart.  Fortunately I got my fingers out of the way in time, so they didn’t get chewed off.  I would hate to get between this family and a box of Golden Grahams.  Some pictures from the Golden Graham ceremony:


If any of my friends who are remotely contemplating visiting SA while I’m here are reading this, pay attention, and I wouldn’t advise arriving here without a box of GG’s.  You might be put on the first plane back. 


They only ate half the box, so are savoring the experience.  We will wait a couple of days before going round two.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I'm here!!!

Hey, I’m here!  After talking about it so long, I’m finally here. 


My first full day in South Africa (after a nice 14 hour sleep!) and I have an internet connection in my room, electricity for my laptop (I had electricity, just not the converter from their kind of electricity to my laptop’s kind of electricity), and even a bank account, so I’m practically a native already.  Life is good.


My flight down was uneventful, as any good flight should be.  17 hours and 56 minutes, I was on the plane.  And we arrived 10 minutes early!  We did make one stop for refueling, but weren’t allowed off the plane.  That was at Isle de Sal, off the coast of Western Africa, about an 8 hour flight from Atlanta, and the middle of the night.  After an hour, we were on our way to Johannesburg.  The whole flight, I got maaaaybe 2 hours sleep.  A 4 year old in front of me and people bumping my shoulder and knees on trips down the aisle prevented me from further rest.  We did have our own personal entertainment centers in the seat in front of us, so I watched some TV shows, a Pete Sampras interview, and played blackjack some, and read.  No movies worth watching.   Some tourgroups were flocking around me, and I even found an Auburn family to chat with about football season.  Sure glad I had that trail mix with me, I got hungry in between feedings!


Rex met me at the airport (about 11am by the time I cleared customs, which was no problem, with my beautiful work permit) and we drove the 45 minutes or so to Stonehaven.  When we drove up, there seemed to be some sort of commotion going on.  There were about 30 people out front dancing and singing a very tribal sounding African song.  They all looked so happy, and then I realized this performance was for me!  As they sang and danced, I went around and tried to shake each of their hands and they all told me welcome to South Africa.  Rosemary was videoing it and I believe Rex got some pictures, which I will try to post soon.  I was floored.  And to finally see and hug Rosemary, it was such a special moment, I can hardly describe it.  Her 2 year old, Sarah-Pat, was clinging to her and seemed very excited that everyone was singing and dancing so.  They then led me to my room where I’ll be staying while here.  As we walked, they started singing the national anthem of South Africa (Rosemary had to inform me, I’m sorry I didn’t recognize it).  Signs were posted along the walk way saying things like “This way to Lee’s room!” and “Welcome to our American Stonehavener, Lee Bryan”.  My room is newly built (on top of their new wine cellar, how convenient!), and is beautiful.  They had champagne sitting out on the table, and the curtains pulled back to show the stunning view of their front lawn, garden restaurant, weeping willow trees and the Vaal River (again, pictures will be posted… I really can’t describe it properly).  It’s winter here and they tell me how dull and grey it looks, but it’s beautiful anyway.  By the way, the day’s have been about 60 degrees, bright bright sunny, but the nights it’s been down to almost freezing.  They have no central heating here in SA, so use space heaters placed around to keep the insides cozy.  They’ll only be needed another few weeks I’m told, then we will live with all the windows open for the rest of the year (even into Summer… no air conditioning either).  My room has a small kitchenette with coffee maker, toaster, microwave and refrigerator which they stocked well for me, including a BOX OF WINE.  Yes, you wine snobs, it’s quite the thing here!  And this country knows their wines.


The rest of the afternoon was spent touring Stonehaven.  It’s hard to describe it or compare it to anything we have in the States, but it is the home where Rosemary grew up, and it now has a bar, event space, a pool, a garden restaurant on the river, 2 boats, a dock, a kids play area, and an animal-petting area, a restaurant IN the animal-petting area (Dr. Doolittle’s Diner).  They have 8 dogs, 7 cats, 1 bird (used to be 2 until one ran away, as the children told me), rabbits, chickens, ducks, and turkeys.  Rosemary’s other 2 children, John and Storm came home from school later in the afternoon and were most welcoming to their American uncle.  Last time I saw them was 4 years ago when they visited my mom in the States.


To catch up some who may not know the Andersons, I’ve posted a picture at

(please let me know if clicking that link took you to the picture properly)

Rosemary was an exchange student who lived with my family in 1976, so we’ve known each other 28 years now.  She’s like a sister, a friend, a soulmate to me.  Her husband Rex is Scottish by birth, but has been in SA since the early 70’s, I believe.  Their 3 children are John (14 next December), Storm (12 in just a couple of weeks) and Sarah-Pat (3 next December). 


That’s all for now, I will post this and see if everyone is reading it properly, and try to get more posted over the weekend.  Feedback is welcome, so please email me!